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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 9/15/21

Descent in hell

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Message Jean-Luc Basle

"This is not the end. It is not the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning." Winston Churchill

In isolation, the humiliating retreat from Afghanistan may be viewed as an unfortunate incident major powers such as the United States encounter in their history. Xerxes's defeat at Thermopylae did not signal the end of the Persian empire. Viewed in a wider context, however, the retreat from Afghanistan takes a deeper meaning. It follows a meeting between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin in Geneva, and precedes a telephone conversation between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping on September 9th. In both instances, the United States was the requesting not the ordering party. Together these events say something about the state of the United States in the world.

On September 9, Joe Biden called Xi Jinping. The White House published a 120-word readout, which did not get much press coverage. China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs' readout is much longer (633 words). One phrase stands out and certainly got the attention of the Taiwanese authorities. It reads as follows: "The U.S. side has no intention to change the one-China policy." In plain terms, this means that if an armed conflict were to arise between Taiwan and China, the United States will not come to the breakaway island's rescue. (1) (2)

Earlier this year, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky amassed troops along the borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while calling the West - essentially the United States - for help. Vladimir Putin responded by amassing troops along the Ukrainian border, making it clear that whoever would invade the two pro-Russian regions would have to reckon with the Russian army. Nobody in the West made any move, and Zelensky's bravado came to naught. Instead, Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin, and met with him in Geneva on June 16. This was his way of telling his Russian counterpart that the United States was not prepared to confront the Russian army over Ukraine.

Let's recap. On June 16, Biden tells Putin he has no intention of responding positively to Zelensky's call to arms, on August 31, he tells the American army to leave Afghanistan, and on September 9, he tells Xi he won't fight China over Taiwan. The message was welcomed in Moscow and Beijing, but not in Washington DC where die-hard neoconservatives believe the United States won the war on terrorism. This is the message one gets reading Foreign Affairs Daniel Kurtz-Phelan's editorial. If the United States won the war, one wonders what it would have been like, had it lost it. Of course, if one puts on one's Machiavellian cap and postulates that Muslim terrorist groups were willy-nilly funded by the United States and its allies, and further assumes that the objective was to wreak havoc on the region, then one may conclude that the United States did indeed win the war. The question then becomes: "at what price?" The answer is given by the Institute for policy studies: $21,000 billion, that is just about the United States GDP in 2020 - a heavy price to pay. In truth, nobody paid anything. Instead, the printing press was activated. The United States is fighting wars it can no longer afford.

So, did the United States win the war on terrorism? Of course not. A war is fought and won against an enemy, a nation or a people, not a concept. How does one win a war against a concept? Concepts never die. At this point, one's only hope is that the "longest war the United States ever fought" is truly over. Regrettably, this is far from certain if one is to believe Joe Biden who, in his address to the nation on August 31, said "we will maintain the fight against terrorism... we can strike terrorists without American boots on the ground"". Does he really believe what he says or is he fooling his fellow citizens? Whatever the case, the fact remains that faced with Putin and Xi, he blinked first, and he lost the war against the Taliban.


(1) Retired Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Davis has explained, "If we eventually choose war with China over Taiwan, we will at best suffer egregious losses in ships, aircraft, and troops; in a worst-case, the war could deteriorate into a nuclear exchange in which American cities are turned into nuclear wastelands, killing millions."

(2) Ambassador Chas F. Freeman comes to the same conclusion : "Sino-American war over the much-misunderstood Taiwan issue - the most probable casus belli - would leave Taiwan in ruins and could leave both the Chinese and American homelands devastated."

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Jean-Luc Basle Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Former Vice President Citigroup New York (retired) Columbia University -- Business School Princeton University -- Woodrow Wilson School

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